NORTH LAS VEGAS, Nev. (KLAS) — The man who police said caused a crash that left nine people dead, including himself, had a history of speeding — but those violations failed to show up on his driving record because they resulted in lesser parking citations and fines.
Gary Dean Robinson, 59, of North Las Vegas, was behind the wheel of a Dodge Challenger when he ran a red light at 103 mph at the intersection of Commerce Street and Cheyenne Avenue, crashing into a minivan carrying a family of seven.
The collision happened on Saturday, Jan. 29, 2022. According to court records, Robinson had pleaded guilty just days earlier for speeding up to 10 miles over the limit on Dec. 9, 2021. He paid a $150 fine. Records the 8 News Now Investigators obtained reveal Robinson was actually traveling 19 miles over the speed limit before the officer cited him on a lesser charge.
Seven of the crash victims were traveling together in the minivan at the time of the crash: Fernando Yeshua Mejia, 5; Adrian Zacarias, 10; Lluvia Daylenn Zacarias, 13; Bryan Axel Zacarias, 15; Gabriel Mejia-Barrera, 23; David Mejia-Barrera, 25; and Jose Zacarias-Caldera, 35.
Robinson and his passenger, Tanaga Ravel Miller, 46, of North Las Vegas, were also killed. In all, the crash involved 15 people.
“What did he take away from you?” 8 News Now Investigator David Charns asked Erlinda Zacarias, mother to four in the minivan, stepmother to two and sister to one.
“My life,” she replied. She and her husband, Jesus Mejia, were at their North Las Vegas home at the time of the crash. They lost their entire family.
“I just think it’s a dream or something,” Zacarias said. “When I wake up, I say, ‘No this is true.’ There’s nothing I can do about it. Nothing I can change.”
That Sunday, the seven family members went out to lunch and then to a park. Zacarias had spoken to her daughter earlier in the afternoon, but soon – silence.
“I kept calling everybody’s phone because all of them have phones and nobody answered me,” Zacarias said. She then started driving around when she came upon the crash site.
“I started screaming,” she said. “I tried to get in and I knew it was my kids.”
A preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board released last week did not pinpoint a cause for the crash, other than noting toxicology tests found PCP, alcohol and cocaine in Robinson’s system.
“There’s no way to say to you how I’m feeling because I still hurt from that,” Zacarias said.
Though he was stopped several times for speeding, Robinson’s driving record included just one documented speeding ticket, the NTSB reported. The speeding tickets were lowered to other violations, records the 8 News Now Investigators reviewed indicated.
Investigators found court receipts from both North Las Vegas and Las Vegas in Robinson’s car, the report said. Robinson’s latest ticket, the one from Dec. 9, 2021, was not yet in his official driving record, the NTSB said.
“The other was a receipt from the Las Vegas Municipal Court dated December 28, 2021, which showed a guilty plea for speeding 16-20 miles per hour over the limit,” the report said. “This ticket was also not reflected on his official Nevada driving record nor had the 2 demerit points been assigned for this offense.”
Body camera video the 8 News Now Investigators obtained from Robinson’s December 2021 traffic stop shows him fumbling for paperwork in his glove compartment. The officer had clocked Robinson driving 64 mph in a 45-mph zone – 19 miles over the speed limit.
Robinson told the officer he was driving home from work. He is driving the same car that a month later would become a murder weapon.
“Is your driver’s license going to be good?” the officer said to Robinson as he walks back to his bike to run Robinson’s license. Though police had stopped him at least five times before this stop, Robinson’s 10-year driving record would show just one moving violation.
In reality, Robinson had a history of bad driving and speeding.
In May 2017, Henderson police charged Robinson with speeding 11-to-20 miles over the speed limit. The charge was reduced to an illegal parking violation. A judge ordered Robinson to pay a $198 fine.
Because he failed to pay the fine, Robinson’s license was then suspended from December 2017 to January 2020, records showed.
In August 2020, North Las Vegas police stopped Robinson for driving 50 mph in a 45-mph zone. The charge was amended to a parking violation following a $346 fine.
In November 2020, North Las Vegas police stopped Robinson again, this time for driving 67 mph in a 45-mph zone. Robinson pleaded nolo contendre, meaning he accepted the fact prosecutors had enough evidence to sway a jury to convict him, but he did not admit guilt. He was ordered to pay a $604 fine.
Just three months later in February 2021, Nevada State Police stopped Robinson for driving 80 mph in a 65-zone. He again pleaded nolo contendre. The fine was $643.
In August 2021, police in Las Vegas charged Robinson for driving 55 mph in a 35-zone. He pleaded guilty and the charge was reduced to a parking violation. A fine was leveled but then vacated.
“Ten over – everything else is good,” the officer said to Robinson as he returns to the car in what would be Robinson’s final stop. “You were doing 64 — 19 over. Could have been twice as bad,” the officer said.
Though the officer knocked Robinson’s charge to a lesser speeding charge — from 10-to-19 over the speed limit down to zero-to-10 over — Robinson was still required to go to court. The ticket would too end up reduced to an illegal parking violation with a $150 fine.
The tickets all involve several agencies and several jurisdictions, including municipal and justice courts, records showed.
“Everything looks like you’re doing a bunch of illegal parking all over the place when in reality, you’re a horrible driver,” former DUI prosecutor Thomas Moskal said. Since leaving the Clark County District Attorney’s Office, Moskal now represents DUI suspects.
Robinson’s driving record shows no active demerit points and no moving violation other than the 2017 ticket, documents said.
“At what point does that flag get raised and why don’t you think it was raised in this case?” Charns asked Moskal.
“It’s not raised in this case because of volume,” he said. “The most commonly cited thing in the criminal justice system is traffic infractions.”
Prosecutors do not have the time nor the resources to review specifics in speeding ticket cases, Moskal said.
“We’re prosecutors that are handling some of the most serious cases in the county and we’ll be given on a Friday morning, ‘Here are 150 traffic tickets,’” Moskal said. “‘Try to negotiate them because we don’t want to see these things to trial.’”
A year after Robinson killed her family, Zacarias said she does not drive through the intersection. She said the system failed.
“They have to do something because people are driving and they just go and pay for classes like a parking ticket,” she said. “Nothing is going to change. Nothing here in Nevada.”
Had anyone seen how bad of a driver Gary Robinson really was, the faces tattooed on her arm may be alive today.
“For us, nothing is nice and happy because we lost everything,” she said.
In 2021, the Nevada Legislature made speeding tickets a civil violation, meaning defendants no longer have to go before a judge. The process is streamlined online and no longer carries jail time.
Even though he died in January 2022, the 8 News Now Investigators found several warrants out for Robinson’s arrest for failing to pay several of those speeding-related fines. The new law quashed warrants for unpaid fines, including Robinson’s.
It is unclear what the law would mean for offenders who repeatedly speed, but who instead look like bad parkers.